By Patty Jo Sawvel
For the first 13 years of her life, Pam Brimm Baker grew up in a virtual paradise. Born as one of 10 children to Virginia and Alexander Brimm, their home was small and their livelihood was simple—her mother was a maid and her father a janitor. But Baker had free rein on the family’s 15-acre homestead in Tallahassee, Florida, and all the love, guidance, and expectations a precocious lastborn can attract.
As expected, she bloomed into a curious, loving, honest, and somewhat competitive little girl that loved a challenge.
“By the time I was five years old,” Baker recalled, “I felt like I could do anything. And if I fell, I had plenty of folks to pick me up.”
That all changed shortly after Baker turned 13. One night she walked into the house and saw her mother crying. Undetected, she listened and learned that her father was leaving to live with another woman. Additionally, he’d started drinking.
“The day he left,” Baker said, “my world crumbled. How could he be married to momma for 26 years and be a deacon in our church—where we didn’t drink—and then do this to me?”
Baker fell hard and when she looked around for support there was very little. Her siblings were grown and gone. Baker decided that it was her job to stay strong for mom. But the burden was too much and Baker emotionally imploded, coming down with a serious case of shingles. Then, on the heels of recovery, she exploded into a full-blown rebellion.
Though she loathed her dad for secretly living a double-life, unknowingly she copied his example. While he escaped from emotions with alcohol, she escaped with sex. And, within a few short months she lost her virginity to a virtual stranger “who cared” and set a new mission: I’m taking care of me.
To please her family, she excelled in school and found a job. To please herself, she had many boyfriends who “cared about her.” Additionally, she dabbled in drugs and alcohol. Her rule: Nothing is off limits but nothing gets out of control.
Amazingly, Baker pulled this off. Seemingly having the best of both worlds, she graduated high school with honors and college credits, and the status of an interned Florida Senate Page. At the same time, she secretly skipped school, partied with the best, and lived a highly promiscuous life.
College was the more of the same—keeping her family completely fooled—even hiding a quick abortion. She didn’t acknowledge any of her negative emotions. Instead she pushed them down like seeds buried in soil.
Then, when she was 22, something happened that stopped her dead in her tracks. While working as the manager of her alma mater’s (Florida A & M University) tutorial program, she set eyes on Michael Baker, an engineering student two years her senior.
“As I watched Michael, I realized that he’d been doing things the right way and now he was a beautiful, honest, and valuable person. Then I looked at myself and realized that all my lies and wrong decisions had left me feeling valueless,” Baker confessed.
Seeing the difference—a counterfeit selfish life versus a pure gold honorable life—convinced Baker that there were dire consequences for her actions. She realized that just like she was nearly bankrupt financially, she was empty emotionally.
Thankfully, instead of pretending that her past never happened, Baker decided to get honest and clean herself up. Ultimately, she moved in with her sister, Shari, who was like her second mother, and they both took time to heal.
“We confessed the whole truth of our lives to each other and we were both shocked. Then we started helping each other and going to church,” Baker explained.
At church, on a whim, Baker auditioned for a special singing group. To her surprise—a hidden talent was discovered. After three years of private and group training, Baker was singing lead.
Simultaneously, Baker and Michael strengthened their relationship. He saw the gold in her heart and encouraged her to reconcile her past. He married Pam on February 8, 1992 when she was 24 years old.
Baker found that as her relationship with God grew, so did her courage to face her past and move towards forgiveness. She was making good progress when she and Michael decided to start a family. Then she hit a brick wall.
Baker couldn’t get pregnant and was convinced that she didn’t deserve to have children because she’d had an abortion. Suddenly, all those seedling feelings of guilt and shame that she’d buried over the years were now in full bloom.
Baker prayed and cried and even volunteered for months at a pregnancy center that protects unborn children. When she almost reached a breaking point, something happened.
“I was crying and overwhelmed with guilt when suddenly I picked up a piece of paper and the words just started flowing. In 30 minutes I wrote a song with lyrics, chorus, and a melody and named it, ‘My Testimony,’” Baker said.
Once the song was written, Baker felt free. She now realized that her inability to conceive was not punishment. And shortly after that the Baker’s were blessed with the first of two pregnancies and the eventual arrival of Nehemiah and Hannah.
It was at this point that Baker actually began to dream—something she hadn’t done since she was 13. She wondered: What would it be like to be a great wife, a wonderful mother, and even an inspirational singer?
Today, Pam Baker is back in paradise. She enjoys the generous support and admiration of her family. And she understands the full journey of what it means to live with and without God in her life. Her new mission is to use her voice to help other women shorten the trip to recovery. She sings her story on her new CD; “Do You See Me God?”
“Nothing brings me greater joy,” Baker said, “than to use my songs to give other’s the hope that it is worth the work to get on the right path and find the life they really want.”